Decoder: Five Takeaways From the Gorsuch Hearings

Having completed two long days of grilling before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch leaves us with much to think about. CQ Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings has five key takeaways from the hearings....
Yesterday’s US Attorneys May Be Tomorrow’s Congressional Candidates
Abrupt ouster by Trump administration provides incentive

President Donald Trump’s abrupt ouster of almost half the country’s U.S. attorneys has done more than create yet another tempest for his nascent administration. It’s also created a new and potentially potent Democratic political class.

Campaign consultants in both parties have long identified prosecutors — especially those confirmed by the Senate to act as the chief federal law enforcement officers in the nation’s 93 judicial districts — as top-flight congressional recruiting opportunities. But, for reasons that aren’t all that obvious, the Republicans have propelled many more crime busters onto Capitol Hill than the Democrats in recent years.

Ep. 45: Inside the GOP’s Uphill Health Bill Battle
The Big Story

CQ Roll Call’s health editor Rebecca Adams breaks down why the Republican replacement for Obamacare is being attacked on all sides. And senior editor David Hawkings talks about the political consequences of the GOP’s current predicament.

What You Likely Won’t Hear from Gorsuch in Senate Hearings — and Why

The three-day confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will begin Monday, March 20. Senior editor David Hawkings says the process may offer very little in the way of insight into Gorsuch’s legal philosophy because of an unsuccessful confirmation in the 80s. Watch the video for more analysis....
High Risk for Trump’s Asking Congress to Probe His Tapping Claim
Intelligence panels’ bipartisan approach might lead to answers president won’t like

In the long and storied history of congressional investigations, there’s no record of lawmakers acting at the president’s behest to get to the bottom of his own extraordinarily explosive but totally unsubstantiated allegations.

But that is going to be the case in the already amply unprecedented era of President Donald Trump. The result could not only change the very nature of legislative branch oversight, but also alter the turbulent course of this nascent administration.

Nine Requests Trump Made of Congress and How Likely They Are to Get Done
 

Following President Donald Trump’s primetime address to a joint session of Congress, Roll Call senior editor David Hawkings gives his take on the long list of Trump’s asks of Congress — and notes previous presidents have had to shorten such lists....
How a Tenet of GOP Orthodoxy Slipped Away
Trump saying nothing about cutting entitlements, and Ryan saying nothing about that

Nothing President Donald Trump said in his first speech to Congress, and nothing visible on this year’s budget battle horizon, will change the grim realities of the long-range federal fiscal forecast.

Trump continues to sound like he’s out to refashion the Republicans as populist protectors of elderly Americans and their expansive government safety net, and GOP leaders on the Hill newly sound like they aren’t going to do anything to stand in his way. That represents a fundamental retreat from three decades of party orthodoxy, which could revive the sort of ballooning annual deficits long derided by Republicans as the enemy of national economic stability.

Ep. 43: The Problems Facing Trump's Big Government Agenda
The Big Story

Show Notes:

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Nevada’s Hill Sway Sinks While Other Small States Surge
New Roll Call Clout Index reveals big disconnects between population and Capitol influence

Harry Reid may have masterminded one of 2016’s biggest statewide Democratic sweeps as he headed toward retirement, but the Nevada congressional delegation he left behind has lost much of its legislative leverage as a result. 

In fact, only two delegations have less collective influence at the Capitol this year than the six lawmakers from the Silver State, the newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals.

Tennessee, Texas Stand Out for Strengthened Hill Sway
In Roll Call’s Clout Index for this Congress, California delegation’s longtime hold on top spot is threatened

No state in this decade has seen a more meaningful boost than Tennessee in institutionalized congressional influence.

Only eight states, all with much bigger delegations because they’re much more populous, have more overt sway at the Capitol this year. That is one of several notable findings from the new Roll Call Clout Index, which the newspaper uses to take a quantifiable measurement of every state’s potential for power at the start of each new Congress.  

Bob Michel, Last Leader of the ‘Old School’ House GOP, Dies at 93
Compromise and collegiality were hallmarks, but got him pushed aside by his caucus in the 1990s

Robert H. Michel, who as the House minority leader from 1981 until his 1994 retirement became the longest-serving congressional Republican leader who never experienced majority power, died Friday. He was 93 and had lived on Capitol Hill much of the time since stepping down after 19 terms representing central Illinois.

Michel epitomized the congressional Old School in nearly every way, which worked to his advantage for almost all of his four decades in office. He prized collegiality, collaboration, civility and courtesy as essential political virtues. He evidenced a steady reverence for the institutional prerogatives, customs and limitations of what he fondly termed “the people’s House.”

For the GOP, a Dangerous Gamble on the All-Important Town Hall
Old-school constituent connections work best, but the anger is proving tough to withstand

Consider 10 and 19 as two more figures that help illustrate the risky congressional Republican strategies of passivity, defensiveness and avoidance during the first month of the Trump administration.

Ten is the total number of GOP lawmakers who have town hall meetings scheduled next week, the longest period Congress will be back home since the inauguration.  

Ep. 41: Town Hall Voter Anger May Force GOP to Stall Obamacare Repeal

As they head back into their states and districts next week, lawmakers could continue to face angry voters at town halls over repealing the Affordable Care Act, says CQ Roll Call’s political reporter Simone Pathé and health reporter Erin Mershon. This and fear of a backlash in the 2018 election, they explain, could further delay any action on the GOP’s six-year quest to repeal Obamacare.

Did McConnell Put Warren Right Where He Wants Her?
Senate GOP boss elevates left‘s hero, maybe because she‘s not strongest 2020 Democratic option

Sure, he’s a really buttoned-down guy working to prevent the Senate from getting totally bottled-up, but there are solid reasons to suspect Mitch McConnell wants a “Nevertheless, she persisted” hoodie as much as anyone.

The majority leader is obviously much more Brooks Brothers than Raygun. Still, he may well realize that his latest grandmaster move in the never-ending game of electoral chess requires ditching the rep stripe tie in favor of some printed-on-demand slogan swag.

Don‘t Expect the Senate to Back Away From the Brink
Ending all filibusters seems inevitable, Gorsuch's confirmation the likely ‘nuclear’ spark

Nuclear winter is coming. 

Perhaps it won’t arrive during this Supreme Court showdown. But then the odds will approach metaphysical certainty with the next vacancy on the court, unless deadlock on a premier piece of legislation happens first.

Ep. 39: Not Even the Usually Lofty Senate Can Escape the Trump Tumult
The Big Story

The Senate is known for its courtesies and decorum, but it’s just two weeks into the Donald Trump administration and the chamber has become as chaotic as it’s been in a long time, says CQ Roll Call’s senior editor David Hawkings. The carping and parliamentary brinkmanship over Cabinet nominees could bode ill for the legislative agenda ahead, say CQ Roll Call’s leadership editor Jason Dick and senior reporter Niels Lesniewski.

Show Notes:

The Incredible Shrinking Split Tickets
Midterm campaign field starts with just 35 crossover House districts

For the latest evidence of the nation’s polarized politics, the granular returns from November offer these slivers of bright purple insight:

Voters in just 35 congressional districts, or 8 percent of the total, elected a House member from one party while preferring the presidential candidate of the other party — the second election in a row where the share of ticket-splitting seats was in the single digits. Before that, 1920 was the last time the number of such crossover districts fell below one out of every nine.

Capitol Hill: Trump’s Ultimate Truth Squad
Presidents don’t usually get to decree what facts and figures will shape legislation

If President Donald Trump’s emphatic disregard for the facts continues, it will soon threaten the viability of the legislative process and imperil the minimal credibility now afforded Congress. 

During his initial week in office, Trump has stood fast by three whoppers of substantial import — given that they now bear the imprimatur of the Oval Office, not the campaign trail or the board room or the set of a reality TV show. But so far, his spreading of falsehoods has not managed to muddy, or sully, the process of advancing the policy changes the country elected him to make.

A Day That’s Both Routinized and Indelibly the President’s Own
Trump’s populist tone, churlish crowd, combine with ageless Capitol pomp

If inaugurations are like weddings — the central figures remain singular and the emotional sensibilities vary, but the liturgies are similar and the outcome is always the same — then the opening day of Donald Trump’s presidency absolutely kept the metaphor relevant.

On Friday, he became the only billionaire, the only brand personification and the only person without any prior experience as a public servant to take the oath of office. And then he excoriated the capital establishment arrayed around him using caustic language and campaign-rally cadences particularly discordant for an inaugural address.

A Ceremony of Stability for a Shake-It-Up President
Inaugurals are meant to unify the nation, a fundamental Trump challenge

No ritual embodies the stability of the American government more than an inauguration. And no one in modern times has arrived for the ceremony as a more purposeful destabilizer of governing norms than Donald John Trump, who becomes the 45th president of the United States on Friday.

The inaugural is this country’s ultimate civic rite, designed to assure the orderly transfer of enormous power, bolster patriotism and bind together a diverse people behind their new leader. The pageantry of the day, in so many ways fundamentally unchanged since the 18th century, almost cannot help but imbue each new holder of the office with similar auras of credibility and historic import.